Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Review

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Based on Gunnm by Yukito Kishiro

Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A deactivated female cyborg is revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is.

My Opinion:

I went into this with zero expectations or knowledge of the source material. I really enjoyed this film! It’s actually my favorite 2019 cinema release so far (but I’ve not managed to go to many movies so far this year). It’ll be interesting to see where it ranks for me by the end of the year.


First of all, this movie succeeds where so many others spectacularly fail: it has likable and fairly well-developed characters that the audience will actually care about. Okay, it’s a fun action sci-fi movie so there are plenty of one-dimensional characters but the writers clearly put some time & effort into the ones that really matter (they just could’ve spent a little more time on the male love interest). The female cyborg (Rosa Salazar) and the father-figure man who “revives” her (Christoph Waltz) are great characters and their relationship is the best thing about the film. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the look of Alita herself but I thought they did a fantastic job with her. They got a good balance between making her look different from the humans while still seeming human emotionally (especially through her extra big eyes that you quickly get used to) and never entering into creepy uncanny valley territory. She’s more likable than the majority of “human” characters in films these days. I also loved that she’s this kick-ass warrior while at the same time having the feelings and innocence of a sweet teenage girl. This could have come across as really cheesy if not handled right but it works perfectly in this film and I can’t see anyone not getting some enjoyment out of this movie, especially lovers of fun sci-fi action.

I think it’s hard to make a sci-fi film these days that doesn’t feel derivative as there have been so many brilliant stories in this genre. Does the story in Alita feel totally original? No, I suppose it doesn’t. Yet I felt like I was watching a sci-fi film I haven’t really seen before despite it borrowing from so many other films. It’s a cross between Rollerball (1975) & Blade Runner with elements of Bicentennial Man and Ellen Ripley’s Aliens “female kick-ass” action crossed with a good coming of age teen flick. It’s an odd combo that somehow works, making the film a lot of fun and making it feel more unique than it actually is. As for Rollerball, it takes the only good thing about that overall somewhat boring movie: the violent & thoroughly entertaining sport itself. It’s only one small part of Alita, though, as there are so many other storylines going on but it did add some extra fun and action to the film.


I’ve not read reviews so don’t know how others feel about this film but I hope that sci-fi lovers enjoyed it as much as I did, whether male or female. I know there’s sometimes backlash when there’s a female lead in what’s seen as a more male-dominated genre. I’ll never understand that. A good movie is a good movie and the characters are far stronger in Alita than in a lot of sci-fi films, which often lack character development. The amount of action in this should keep fans happy as well. There’s loads of action with some great fight scenes involving all kinds of funky-looking cyborgs that you really want to see Alita kick the shit out of.


Now to give this movie my rating… I struggled with this one! I’d almost up my rating to 8, actually. I might. I often come back to reviews later and adjust my rating. Bear in mind that sci-fi is my favorite genre and this movie is very much my type of thing. The film isn’t perfect. It could’ve been better. It could’ve gone deeper into Alita’s story and her feelings and the meaning of being human (explored more in things such as Ex Machina). The “baddies” were weak and we didn’t get to know enough about their motivations (the characters played Jennifer Connelly and especially Mahershala Ali, who felt a bit wasted in this). Well, sort of played by Ali… I won’t get into that (spoiler). I wouldn’t call this film shallow but it could’ve been more of a “thinky” sci-fi. However, it was a lot of fun to watch and I loved the characters. Sometimes we expect a bit too much from movies. I’d happily watch this one again, which I can’t say for a lot of movies I’ve watched in recent years. I’d love to see this one get a sequel.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Sin City (2005) IMDB Top Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Damien of Flashback/Backslide. Thanks for the review, Damien! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Sin City, IMDB rank 136 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews. I know I’ve made a few that are specific to the movie being reviewed. I’ll also do an IMDB update post soon & will post some more logos.

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Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s creation is the ultimate marriage of comics and film. Dozens of comic book adaptations hit screens before Sin City and with Hollywood’s habit of churning out superhero films (except for a Deadpool movie) it certainly won’t be the last. But it’s hard to think of another film that embodies the visual style of comics so well. Rodriguez applies his characteristic innovative film-making to capture the imagery and motifs of Miller’s series in a way few other directors could. Even other adaptations of Miller’s works including Zack Snyder’s 300 (2005) and Watchmen (2009), both great in their own right, don’t absorb the visual tendencies like Rodriguez’s tour de force. Like Miller’s other adaptations, Sin City received mixed reviews on initial release, polarizing critics with its hyperviolence and extreme stylization.

When judging the film it is impossible to separate the striking visuals and its unconventional storytelling. The majority of the film is presented in black-and-white but unlike Hitchcock who used lack of color to reduce the violence and gore in Psycho (1960), Rodriguez uses the technique to heighten the violence and draw attention to the gore. Our eyes are drawn to bright red streaks of blood flicking off a grayscale knife or the hot white blood pouring out of Benicio del Toro’s freshly shurikened wrist. Even though the film is in black-and-white, Rodriguez manages to create sequences that feel saturated with color using extreme contrast paired with busy frames filled with multiple shadows and bright foci like Kevin’s (Elijah Wood) glasses, or the bandages littering Marv’s (Mickey Rourke) face and arms. Many scenes go full comic using bright white silhouettes on black backgrounds.

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Rodriguez pairs this visual style with near-constant voice-overs providing slick narration from multiple characters. Here Rodriguez combines Miller’s style with his own penchant for paying homage to films past. In the same way that Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindouse (2007) celebrates B-movies and Rodriguez’s The Faculty (1998) does the same with sci-fi horror (albeit to a lesser extent), Sin City celebrates film noir and old crime films. Well-versed on the genre’s mannerisms, Rodriguez uses them to full effect to breathe life into Miller’s creation. In an earlier post on flashbackbackslide.com we walked through a list of commonly used techniques in noir’s bag of tricks. And Sin City applies them by the fistful. Femme fatales and Sam Spade-type tough guys enter and exit the film continuously, none of them taking a majority of the spotlight. With this arrangement an extensive list of chain-smoking Hollywood A and B-listers sneak onscreen. Mickey Rourke’s scenes as Marv in particular feel like a scene cut out of a Golden Age noir. With a keen eye for quality trench coats and a near indestructibility, Marv alone could fill a board of film noir bingo with his voice-overs:

“She fires up two cigarettes and hands me one and I taste her lipstick on it and suddenly my heart’s pounding so loud I can’t hear anything else.”
-Marv (Mickey Rourke)

The cinematography and shot selections are covered with noir fingerprints. An early scene with Clive Owen, Benicio Del Toro and Brittany Murphy plays out a familiar scenario with Owen out-tough-guying Murphy’s abusive boyfriend Del Toro. Venetian blinds, mirrors, Dutch angles and silhouettes, all tools in the noir kit, are used in this one brief scene, as outlined in the two stills below:

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With Sin City, Miller and Rodriguez have created a space to flex all of their combined creative muscles. After an initial phase of critical uncertainty, time has served the film well and it is now considered an artistic benchmark and one of the best neo-noirs of the last ten years along with Memento (2000), Brick (2005) and Drive (2011). The visual style the film wraps itself in has influenced other films in the genre including 300 (2006), The Spirit (2008), 300: Rise of an Empire (2014) and in some ways Snyder’s Watchmen. We will remember Sin City for this style but the hyperstylization is also what makes the film less enjoyable when judged alone. At times the images are headache-inducing with awkward dull red hues playing on bright white lines. This may also be a stylistic choice but two hours in the world of Sin City’s style can become exhausting.

And the stylistic choices seem to have taken precedence over a coherent and interesting plot as the continuous jolt of storylines tends to be frustrating as we are dropped into sequences with no knowledge of our context or the characters’ relationships. It appears that the trailer recognizes these inconsistencies and tries to sell a single unified plot that really does not exist in the movie. The film’s nonsequential timeline is reminiscent of Pulp Fiction (1994) but far less comprehensible and not nearly as enjoyable. Pulp Fiction presents its story in a deliberate order, controlling the action and tension to maximize the film’s effect. Sin City gives the impression of randomness without cause. During the Pulp Fiction scene when John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson sit down for breakfast after being hosed down by Harvey Keitel we know that Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer are in the diner and the tension builds as we wait for the chaos to begin. But in Sin City, we see Elijah Wood in a scene even though we already witnessed his death. The problem is that knowing about the previous scene does not add any tension to the later scene like it does in Pulp Fiction.

Part of the plot problems stem from the film’s base in an expanded comic universe which does not serve the story well at times as it cannot hope to contain all the stories of the graphic novels. But the film never sets out to be judged on story alone and puts all its money on style. And the bet pays off in the long run as it is still relevant today especially with its highly anticipated sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For coming out soon. It will be interesting to see how the sequel treats its storyline and uses updated visual effects technology but there’s little reason to believe the newest Sin City will be drastically different from the original and will awe us with its visuals while leaving narrative content to be desired.

Rating: 7/10. The sequences with Marv at the beginning of the movie earn a 9/10. After that I found the stories less interesting and the visuals no longer as exciting.

Where to see it: On the best HD TV you can find.

Thanks for reading!

Flashback/Backslide